In 1881 Carnegie began making donations for philanthropic purposes, and was particularly interested in increasing knowledge through building libraries. At that time, there were only a few public libraries in the world, so this activity was notable, and remains the one for which he is famous. That summer he and his mother...
In 1881 Carnegie began making donations for philanthropic purposes, and was particularly interested in increasing knowledge through building libraries. At that time, there were only a few public libraries in the world, so this activity was notable, and remains the one for which he is famous. That summer he and his mother returned to their native town of Dumfermline, Scotland, and in July she laid the cornerstone for the world's first Carnegie Library. Eventually Carnegie would donate 2,507 libraries. With Carnegie openly donating such large sums of money, organizations from everywhere wrote seeking a share of the largess. But Carnegie could not say yes to everyone, and when the son of old friends wrote him for such a purpose, he saw a need to decline, lest it bring on an avalanche of new requests.
Typed Letter Signed, on his letterhead, January 25, 1911, to John Townsend of Cambria Steel Company, saying that he is inundated with charitable requests, and since donating to one branch of the YMCA would lead inevitably to requests from many, he just cannot do it. "I am glad to hear that your dear good mother is alive and well. Please give her my most affectionate greetings. She comes before me vividly as I speak. In regard to the YMCA, it is impractical for me to extend my field. To give to one branch would increase my correspondence a hundred letters a day to the many hundreds we are now receiving." Carnegie had been friends and colleagues with Townsend's parents, Edward and Henrietta, so sending these regards was in keeping with their personal relationship. Had he donated to one branch of the Y, he would likely have received similar requests from hundreds of others, and from who knows how many other organizations.
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